Howard University Teams Up with Institutions for Clinical Trial Combating Black Opioid Addiction

The $14.2 million grant is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Howard University is teaming up with the University of Illinois Chicago and the University of Miami to begin a clinical trial collaborating with neighborhood sites to treat opioid use disorder.

According to the school’s website,  the trial intends to use non-medical community spaces, such as churches, community centers and homeless shelters, to provide medical treatment for opioid dependence. In doing so, they will test this community-focused approach in Chicago, Miami, and Washington D.C., three major cities plagued by opioid addiction.

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The five-year $14.2 million project, split amongst the three universities, is being funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) as part of the Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL) Initiative at the National Institutes of Health. It is built on the established Better Together pilot program, developed by Howard University’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, in partnership with its community advisory board. They will test treatment effectiveness, sobriety retention and patient satisfaction.

It is co-spearheaded by Richard Schottenfeld, MD, professor and chair of the Howard’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, who pulled inspiration for this trial from his experience doing focus groups with other researchers and community members. In those results, he found many of the opioid-dependent Black population were not seeking treatment due to stigma, misunderstandings regarding addiction, or bias towards particular treatment types. This community-integrated approach aims to combat these barriers.

Other co-leaders include Niranjan Karnik, visiting professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois Chicago, and José Szapocznik, PhD, professor and chair emeritus, Public Health Sciences and director of the Center for Family Studies, University of Miami.

Researchers believe that by setting up the trial in community spaces, it allows for more trust, accessibility and attraction by providing comfortable, familiar environments by peers from the patient’s own community.

The trial will take a holistic approach with patients, supplying buprenorphine, a medical treatment for opioid dependence, as well as a complete treatment program with peer recovery support and engagement specialists to produce long-term success.

In its first phase, researchers will work to form community advisory boards in each city, followed by building partnerships with community leaders, local organizations, and possible treatment sites.

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